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For Immediate Release
April 26, 2004
Contact: Charles Pyle
Director of Communications
(804) 371-2420
Julie Grimes
Public Information Specialist
(804) 225-2775


Virginia Drive to Strengthen School Leadership
Wins Additional Funding from the Wallace Foundation
Effective Leadership is Key to Raising Student Achievement

Virginia’s drive to raise student achievement by strengthening school leadership is earning additional funding from the Wallace Foundation’s State Action for Education Leadership Project (SAELP). The foundation is awarding a $600,000 Phase-II SAELP grant to the commonwealth to prepare principals and other school leaders for success in raising the achievement of students. The new grant will allow Virginia to move forward with strategies developed through activities funded by an initial SAELP grant of $250,000 awarded in 2001.

“There is a clear link between strong leadership and increased student achievement,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction Jo Lynne DeMary. “This new leadership grant will help Virginia develop and retain principals, administrators, and superintendents who believe that all children can learn and achieve.”

Virginia will use funds from the Phase-II SAELP grant to implement a series of “breakthrough ideas” to strengthen school leadership, including:

  • The Commonwealth Collaborative, an on-going partnership between schools, school divisions, colleges and universities, professional associations, and the state to provide principals and other leaders with training in strategies and practices to raise achievement. Professional development programs developed by the collaborative will be based on research and tailored to the needs of novice, experienced, and expert educational leaders.

  • A New Day in Professional Preparation, which includes the development of a model curriculum for college and university principal preparation programs that is in line with state performance standards and focused on the role of leadership in raising student achievement. The development of a statewide induction and mentoring system will increase the likelihood that new leaders enjoy success and provide effective leadership.

  • Support the recruitment and training of school “turnaround specialists” to raise achievement in chronically under-performing schools. The turnaround specialist concept is a key component of Governor Warner’s Education for a Lifetime initiative.

The recruitment, retention, and development programs funded by the Phase-II SAELP grant follow up on findings of studies conducted during Phase-I of SAELP and will help Virginia schools and school divisions develop and retain effective leaders during a period of increasing turnover in school offices and buildings. For example, a survey of practicing superintendents, deputy superintendents, associate superintendents, and assistant superintendents commissioned by the Commonwealth Educational Policy Institute (CEPI) of Virginia Commonwealth University revealed that 72 percent of the respondents planned on retiring or changing careers in three to five years.

The Virginia Department of Education has designated CEPI as the administrator of the commonwealth’s Phase-II SAELP grant. Funded activities will represent a collaborative effort involving department, CEPI, Governor Mark R. Warner, Secretary of Education Belle S. Wheelan, the State Council for Higher Education in Virginia, the General Assembly, and several school divisions, including Fairfax County and the cities of Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, and Roanoke. Virginia is one of 15 states participating in the second phase of the project, which supports the development and implementation of policies and practices that promote effective leadership for schools and school divisions.

The Wallace Foundation is an independent private foundation established by DeWitt and Lila Acheson Wallace, the founders of The Reader’s Digest Association. Its mission is to expand learning by strengthening education leadership, improving after-school programs, and expanding participation in the arts. For more information on the foundation, visit www.wallacefoundation.org.

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